The most important component of writing is “marketing.” In other words, promotion is the perspiration part of your creativity—roughly ninety per cent. Inspiration accounts for a paltry ten percent.
Some people spend years on writing a screenplay, play or novel. They worry, fret and go talk about it at workshops. They spend roughly ninety percent of their time on the composition of their product. Checking over your creation is not a bad idea because indeed you have to get rid of those typos, be sure your grammar makes the grade and that your story is down pat. For sure it takes time to get these things straightened out. However, you can over do it.
When I say over do, I mean you don’t know when to stop with the preening and fawning and get down to what it’s all about—marketing. Why did you write this opus? For it to be your catharsis at a writer’s workshop? No. Hopefully you wrote your book, screenplay or play so it could be shared with the public at large. To do that your work must be published or produced. Otherwise, it’s like a shot going off in an empty room.
Marketing is the critical point which separates the goats from the sheep in the writing process. The basic idea is to write something, shop it, sell it and then write something else. If money enters the equation, so much the better.
Why is marketing so important? The answer rests in the fact that without it, you just have some words lying dormant.
So let’s say that you are one of the realists who understands that as soon as you finish your work, you must immediately begin the marketing process. This means you start trying to find an agent who will represent you and your work. You send out query letters to them as well as to publishers and producers. Much to your chagrin, you quickly experience getting the cold shoulder. You are being treated as a pariah. The ones who even bother to answer let you know that without a recommendation from an important person or an expensive entertainment lawyer, you are toast. If you self-published your book, you found those publishers do not do any marketing for you at all. They will be glad to sell you some marketing access for big bucks though.
You want to crawl into a hole. No one out there will listen to you and they treat you like a bastard at a family reunion. You throw your hands up. You get desperate and start paying people for their help. You quickly realize that money is fleeing out of your pocket into someone else’s bank account. You send off fifty or sixty bucks to enter your work in a contest and all you get is the organizer’s thanks for your check. You enroll in all sorts of on-line pod courses with people who sound awfully “in” and they almost guarantee you will find out what you’ve been doing wrong.
Now you’re ready to ask an alarming question. How is it possible to do any marketing these days and be successful at it? All I can say is one word—“persevere.” That is why you have to spend ninety per cent of your time on trying to connect with someone. In other words, you have to put your efforts these days into overdrive if you hope to crack that glass ceiling. That’s why you need not waste your time on overkill in the creative process. It’s going to take every bit of your stamina and the hide of a rhinoceros to make it to first base.
Most aspiring writers do not have budgets to pay for professional marketing help and they run a one-man band sort of marketing. Hence, one can easily get very frustrated and discouraged.
Here are a few tips which will at least help you break the marketing inertia you’re probably experiencing as an amateur trying to break into the professional ranks.
First of all, research as much as possible any agent you contact. To do this, I suggest getting a good publication like the Guide to Literary Agents that is put out by Writers Digest for the current year. In the last few pages, they have agents listed by genres. Make sure the agent you intend to send a query to is looking for the genre of work you’re promoting. For example: fiction or non-fiction and which specialties they are looking for such as crime, feminist, historical. Next, make sure they are accepting queries. Then send your submission to a real person—not just to the agency. Follow their instructions implicitly for submissions.
I suggest sending your letters to agencies located in large metropolitan areas. They seem to be where the action is and are not as old-maidish as small-town agencies. Write the best query letter you can. (See the post The Dreadful Query Letter.)
Make sure your letter has no typos or grammatical mistakes. Do not use adjectives describing your work or any character in the work. Examples: fabulous, wonderful, exciting, etc. Any bragging on your part is an immediate turnoff.
Even though you have done the best you can with your submission, don’t expect an answer for two to three months as they receive a high volume of letters just like yours. To be utterly realistic, don’t even expect to hear back from them. Agents seem to give short-shrift to unknowns no matter how exciting their proposals or ideas. For some reason, they had rather take a mediocre submission from a friend of one of their clients than yours with perhaps a brilliant project. That’s just the way the trust factor works for the most part these days; however, occasionally exceptions happen, thank goodness and you may be one of those. That’s why you must keep slugging away.
Space out your submissions. Don’t send out two-hundred at once. It will only depress you. Truly this is like winning the lottery if an actual, live person answers you back. It can happen Even so, get the rhinoceros hide going.
Send out a press release. If you Google “press releases”, you will find many places that specialize in them. Some are extremely expensive while others are free or charge very little. You will have to check out how to write a press release but don’t pay any money. With diligence and practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t over do it though. Just make an interesting article stressing what you’ve done as an author and what you are presenting to the world at large. This won’t get you any firm offers but it will get your name out there on Google.
Start your own blog at Word Press. If this stumps you, buy a how-to book at Amazon. Write a short weekly article and try to attract readers. Start with your family and friends first. Have them help you build up your subscription list.
Limit to almost zero subscribing to pod casts or on-line how-to courses that cost you money. Most of these are just to line their pockets, not yours. However, if they’re free, check them out. Remember, anything free is fine.
If you live in a small town in mid-America, you will be pretty much limited to the use of the Internet to do your marketing. This means you’ve got a longer row to hoe to try and get yourself known. Just hang in there and keep sending emails out to any group or blog that doesn’t charge you money. Let Google be your agent.
What most depresses people in the marketing part of this profession is the “all out and nothing in” money gimmicks you’ll run into. Also the high lack of your being treated like a living, worthy person by agencies , publishers and producers must be squarely faced. This is accomplished by not giving up and realizing that occasionally someone does sneak through the net—and that person could be you.
A word about workshops and the like: If they’re free, or almost free, embrace them. If they cost anything over five or ten dollars, forget them. They are out to add to their coffers, not yours. If you live in a metropolitan city, go to anything free that is related to writing and your particular genre. Then be prepared to pitch your project at a moment’s notice. This would be what is called “the elevator pitch.” Imagine you were standing next to the president of Warner Brothers in an elevator. You take all the nerve you’ve got and tell him about your screenplay while the elevator is going from the fifth floor down to the lobby—about 25 or 30 words. I did this once with the head of Twentieth-Century Fox and it at least got me an invitation to submit my script.
What I’m saying is not to leave any possibility unturned. Don’t pay out lots of money and get nothing in return. Also, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up.
Cheers and best to you. Now go forth and market your project.